Personally, I don’t like the thought of being charged to withdraw my money from a cash machine. But what happens if you have little or no choice? Is a fee ever a price worth paying for convenience?
Cash machines are currently the most popular method of cash withdrawal in the UK – in 2011 people used ATMs a record 2.87 billion times, withdrawing £19bn in the process.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have always lived in places where there’s access to free-to-use cash machines, but that’s obviously not the case for everyone.
I’m well aware that people who live in the most remote parts of the country can be left with little or no choice but to pay a fee at ATMs. This is often where banks have closed branches and private cash machine operators have decided it’s not viable to maintain a free-to-use one. However, our snapshot survey of cash machines has found that there are even so-called ‘cash machine deserts’ in densely-populated residential areas in London.
Cash machine charges in motorway service stations
Then there are the motorway stations. According to Link (which co-ordinates the ATM network) there are 328 fee-charging cash machines in British motorway service stations, compared to only 18 free-to-use ones. That means that just six of the 98 service stations in England, Scotland and Wales have a free-to-use ATM in their main building.
However, there are less obvious ways to avoid paying a fee. Just under a quarter of the service stations with fee-charging machines in their main building have petrol stations with free-to-use ATMs on the same site. And some also have shops offering cashback.
The cost of convenience when it comes to cash
When we asked Which? members about ATMs, almost all said they resented being charged to withdraw money. Three quarters refuse to use fee-charging cash machines on principle, while nine in ten would rather wait or walk further to find a free cash machine.
While I’ll do almost anything I can to avoid paying a fee to access my money, many people can’t or don’t want to walk an extra five or ten minutes more. And for those withdrawing small amounts of money, a charge of £1.73 (the current average) can make up a significant percentage of a transaction. Plus, this all adds up over time.
That’s why we think banks and private cash machine operators need to keep working together to give people more chance to access their cash for free, and ensure they’re not trapped in areas where the only option is to pay.
Do you use fee-charging cash machines, or do you do everything you can not to pay?
What do you think about fee-charging cash machines?
I resent paying a fee (90%, 622 Votes)
It depends on how much the charge is (8%, 54 Votes)
I'm happy to pay a fee to withdraw my cash (2%, 13 Votes)
Total Voters: 695